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The series of mysterious UFOs over North America could be the first public display of a new Cold War, an expert has claimed.
A high-altitude balloon the size of three buses was shot down by the US over the Atlantic on February 5, believed to have originated in China.
Three more objects were subsequently spotted in USA airspace, however, US President Joe Biden has said “nothing suggests” the trio came from China.
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But given the timing after the first, larger, flying object speculation has been rife about the origin of the three – especially given ongoing tensions between the two countries over Taiwan.
Tensions have since been running high between the two countries, with China denying the original balloon was used for intelligence-gathering purposes.
While the truth about all four objects remains unknown Matthew Powell, a teaching fellow in strategic and air power studies at Portsmouth University, thinks it could mark the first truly public representation of a new Cold War – with perhaps the exception of a trade war started when Donald Trump was president.
While he explained that intelligence circles will have been experiencing espionage and counterintelligence scenarios before the flying objects, they mark the first truly public spectacle in the conflict.
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Asked by the Daily Star if he thought this was the first public moment in what could be a new Cold War, Matthew said: “Yes, I think we can go back to Trump's presidency as well and look at the trade wars that he initiated.”
He told the Star: “I think from the Chinese point of view, if it does turn out that these were their balloons, it looks probable that it is that they've been testing the waters and see just how far they can go in terms of provoking and seeing what the US might be willing to not react to.
“That sort of sets the bar as to what they might be able to get away with in future.”
But although this might be considered the first publicly visible act of this new Cold War, he noted how intelligence agencies in Beijing and Washington “would have known that things were happening” between the two long before.
He added: “We aren't aware of an awful lot that goes on here and probably rightly so”.
Asked what he thought the developments could mean for the relations for the two countries, he said: “I don't think it's gonna make them any better. That's for sure.
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“Tensions are going to increase and perhaps there'll be more conflict below the level of office or perhaps more diplomatic pressure and perhaps more in terms of intelligence operations in terms of observing each other.
“I think it'll lead to a state of mistrust between the two that's going to be difficult to overcome.”
He added that, on the public level, the rising tensions could see a trade war develop.
Matthew said the two powers were now likely entering a “grey zone, which is basically the actions states take short of wars – that can be a trade war, it can be increased intelligence activities, and that never really goes away.
“We just don't know a huge amount about it because not a lot of it gets published because it's usually done covertly."
He said he felt that the next 10 years could, looked back on retrospectively, be defined by the simmering conflict between China and the USA.
He said: “It's quite possible that this will continue rumbling below the surface, perhaps being acknowledged every so often when needed or where it might give one side or the other one advantage.
“I think it could define the next decade perhaps.”
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